“Can you see me?”
“Is my mic working?”
These are words that you’ve heard all too many times at your new school building or places of work. With COVID-19 confining us to our homes, video conferences have become a substitute for in-person social environments. Applications like Zoom, Skype, and WebEx now serve as venues for online courses, work meetings, entertainment, and in my case, family get-togethers. Before COVID, the uncles, aunts, and cousins would hold monthly birthday celebrations in bulk for all of the cousins born on the current month. For as long as I can remember, we never missed a celebration, and COVID wasn’t about to stop us.
Without missing a beat, our first Zoom call came right after quarantine was implemented. To say that the call went smoothly would be a stretch - many of my older relatives had never used Zoom before, so younger family members found themselves moonlighting as IT Technicians to help make the calls as inclusive as possible. We thought these calls would be a two or, at max, three-time thing and that it would be family business as usual for the Hoangs in a few months.
Fast forward to now, Zoom meetings have become my extended family’s primary method of visual communication. I’ll admit, watching my relative sing happy birthday while folding laundry took some getting used to. Even now, I don’t think that a Zoom meeting comes close to the real thing, but they’re something that I’m grateful for.
My cousin’s wife just gave birth to her second son Elijah, who made his first appearance at one of our calls a few months ago. Being able to see and interact with him in real time made a huge difference compared to just staring at a Facebook or Instagram post. While the words and gestures were communicated virtually across large distances, with iPhone speakers and cameras, the connections made were just as real.
Steven is a first generation Vietnamese-American from the DC metro area. He is part of the core volunteer team on the Vietnamese Boat People podcast. His interests include jiu-jitsu, programming, and anything ramen-related.